Saturday, October 18, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 18: Roots Of Horror: The Blood Countess

~by Marie Robinson

You have probably heard the legend of Elizabeth Báthory hundreds of times though you may not know her name. She has been referred to as the Blood Countess and rumored to be a vampire. This monstrous woman has made her place in history and folklore and appeared in hundreds of forms through film and literature, all because of her gruesome crimes.

With a possible 650 victims she is the most allegedly the most prolific female serial killer, though the number varies. Countess Elizabeth Báthory (born August 7th, 1560) came from a well-respected Hungarian family and married Ferenc Nádasdy when she was just fifteen years old. She was often left alone in her castle, Čachtice, in Slovakia, while her husband was traveling; it was in his absence that she enacted her crimes. Báthory, with the help of several accomplices (two old woman and a disfigured boy), began luring local girls to her castle with the prospect of a job where she would then torture them to death.

 The various ways included beating them with clubs and barbed whips, stabbing them with needles and daggers, burning them with hot irons, pouring water on them while they lay naked in the snow, and biting and tearing the flesh from their living bodies. Her claim to fame, however, were her supposed “bloodbaths”, where she would soak in the blood of the young virgin to preserve her beauty and absorb their youthfulness.

Although much of the Countess’ ghoulish exploits were probably exaggerated, or even completely falsified, this terrifying figure definitely had an effect on hundreds of artists. To this day people are still influenced by the ghastly Mrs. Báthory; her likeness has appeared in many different films, books, art and even video games.

Dozens of women have portrayed Elizabeth Báthory (or characters inspired by her) in film. For example, Julie Delphy directs and stars as the noblewoman in her 2009 film, The Countess. In American Horror Story: Coven Kathy Bates plays the cruel and wealthy Delphine LaLaurie, who would torture and murder her slaves and then lather their blood on her skin. Báthory also appears in Stay Alive (2006), The Brothers Grimm (2005), Fright Night 2: New Blood (2013), Countess Dracula (1971) and many others.
There have been several bands named after the Blood Countess—the most popular being the Swedish metal band, Bathory—and even more songs written for her. She has appeared in comics, novels, documentaries, and stage productions.

Kathy Bates as Delphine LaLaurie on AHS:Coven
The belief that Elizabeth Báthory was an actual vampire started with the rumors of her bathing in blood, but was perpetuated by 18th century Europe’s fascination and fear with the bloodsuckers of lore. This almost certainly falsified addition to the Countess’ crimes became so popular over time that one cannot mention Elizabeth Báthory without talking of her apparent bloodlust. There have been ties drawn between her and Vlad the Impaler as well as Bram Stoker, the later possibly being influenced to write Dracula with her in mind.

While the truth may be stretched, there is no doubt that Elizabeth Báthory was a terrible woman. Sadistic, psychotic, but undeniably fascinating. She has captured the interest of countless human beings, and undoubtedly will continue to do so as long as her name is kept alive.


Christine Hadden said...

Another film that depicts a strong Bathory influence is Hostel II, in which a woman (aptly named Ms. Bathory) hangs her victim upside down over her naked body and proceeds to slash said victim multiple times with a scythe, eventually slicing her neck open and bathing in the spewing blood. Gah!
I always think of that film when I think of Elizabeth Bathory.

Mary Bart said...

I love the Hammer movie starring Ingrid Pitt that depicts her. And the newer movie Countess was very well done as well. She is a fascinating serial killer. I wonder if she has the highest body count for a female serial killer?

Marie Robinson said...

Yeah she is supposedly the most prolific serial killer, but it is somewhat hard to say because the numbers are all over the place.